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Floundering for food

An integrated approach to ensure food security will require coordinating the basic socio-economic yardsticks to address the challenge holistically.

Floundering for food

People will travel anywhere for good food - it's crazy", said Rene Redzepi, a renowned Danish chef. Indeed, what once might have been taken for granted as generous endowments of nature now looks something like nature's wrath waiting to be unleashed. But certainly, nature is not to be blamed for this looming catastrophe. Scarcity of food is a prevailing global crisis that has established its impact to alarming extents in various dimensions. October 16 is observed as World Food Day to honour the founding day of Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 1945; and in India, it is commemorated as Food Engineer's Day.Over the decades, this initiative has assumed much greater significance.

Food is undoubtedly and inevitably the most basic precondition for any constructive and progressive state of being. Food security is fundamentally the dual aspects of food availability and access to it, both of which must necessarily be facilitated. Corollary to that are utilisation of food in terms of how the nutrients adequately contribute to an individual's good health and stability in terms of consistent food security. Ensuring food security is of immense relevance both nationally and internationally and there is a pressing need in India particularly, to tackle this intensifying challenge. The most immediate impact of food insecurity is malnourishment and undernourishment that cause stunted growth in children, an irreversible condition of deformity.
With regard to quantitative estimates, one in nine persons on earth does not have enough food to lead a healthy active life (that is about 795 million people across the world). Majority of world's hungry people live in developing countries where 12.9 per cent of the population is undernourished (Asia is home to two-thirds of such people and Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest prevalence of hunger with one person in four undernourished). Poor nutrition causes 45 per cent deaths of children under 5 each year (about 3.1 million children) each year. One out of six children (roughly 100 million) in developing countries are underweight. One in four children is stunted. 66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry across the world of which Africa alone has 23 million.
Childhood stunting occurs due to chronic malnutrition and results in significantly hampered physical and mental efficiencies. The irreparable low cognitive capacity of stunted children results in their reduced ability to learn. This, in turn, affects their future primarily in terms of economic well-being, and subsequently, in several other ways engendering from a sub-optimal economic status. At the individual level, such a condition wrecks domestic lives. Collectively, such a condition shapes a society that inherently has a damaged fabric. Further beyond, when a significant chunk of the population remains constantly susceptible to stunted growth and malnourishment, it spells a rather grim future with a part of its human resource unable to function and perform adequately.
The extent of awareness and the involvement and initiatives committed to addressing this exigency shows that it is realised deeply that this humanitarian crisis could escalate into a far more compounded situation. What appears to be simply a problem of hunger and malnourishment could aggravate and spill over to impede functioning in other areas of development. The antidote to food insecurity will be effective when applied simultaneously in different interconnected domains so that they may function in tandem and bear favourable results.
At its root a social malady, food insecurity begins with an unhealthy and malnourished mother who is incapable of properly nourishing her child – first physically, then due to economic constraints due to severe poverty. Education is, unfortunately, still a luxury for the citizens of the lowest strata of our society. Even with a reasonably executed mid-day meal scheme, the requirement for wholesome nutrition daily cannot be guaranteed. Reasons for this can vary from the quality of food provided to the lack of quality of learning imparted. Parallel to this situation is another massive pillar of strength of the economy – agriculture, which has lately been gnawed with plights of myriad kinds.
The economic aspect of food insecurity engenders primarily from the agriculture sector gone out of order. Other than erratic weather patterns, the uncertainty in agriculture is compounded by other factors such as youth drawing away from this practice due to low and unsatisfactory returns; deterioration of rural economy, structure, and system; deteriorating health of soil that reduces nutritional value of the produce and subsequent environmental degradation due to dependence on chemical fertilisers. Given this, there must be concentrated efforts to revive the agriculture sector which will hold the economy more secure. An integrated approach to ensure food security will require connecting and coordinating the elementary socio-economic yardsticks so as to address the challenge more holistically.
The theme of World Food Day, 2017 is "change the future of migration. Invest in food security and rural development." This theme emphasises the importance of the social sector, drawing special attention to restoring agriculture to a better health and putting in place effective method to reduce and minimise wastage of food. Food safety is an outgrowth of a well-performing agriculture sector. In the struggle to make this crucial transition from food insecurity to ensured food safety, people will naturally be compelled to travel anywhere for food. It is a necessity. And it is not crazy!
(The author is Editorial Consultant and Senior Copy Editor with Millennium Post. Views expressed are strictly personal.)

Kavya Dubey

Kavya Dubey

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